# Overreacting

“A Texas teenager who gained national attention after he was arrested for bringing a homemade clock to school is moving to Qatar with his family to continue his education.” He was interrogated for an hour and a half, because it was thought to be a bomb. His family is now moving to Qatar. See http://www.cnn.com/2015/10/20/us/ahmed-mohamed-qatar/index.html. (The quote above is the lead of this article.)

Did anyone at the school really think about what they were doing?

# Puzzle #127: Hallowe’en Hellions

Seven kids (siblings Alex and Beth, siblings Cindy and Denise, siblings Effie and Fred, and lone child George) got into trouble over one or more Hallowe’en “events”. A kid is “nicer” than another kid if the first kid was involved in fewer events. “worse” is the opposite. The events were collecting candy twice, setting off firecrackers, and stomping on a geezer’s lawn. There are eight combinations of events, but none of these kids are angels so ignore the no events possibility. Each kid was responsible for a different combination.

Alex is nicer than Denise. No two siblings both set off firecrackers. Beth is worse than Denise. Effie set off firecrackers. Alex and Fred went lawn stomping, but Denise did not. No two siblings are equally nice.

So who did what?

Submit your answer to Gene Wirchenko <genew@telus.net>. Your answer should be in the form of a proof. That means to show how your answer must be correct. The deadline is Wednesday, November 11, 2015 at noon Pacific Time. I will post the answer shortly after.

# Artificial Stupidity

Have you ever made a blunder? You know that you meant to write something, but somehow, what you wrote was very different. Maybe, it was even embarrassingly so.

With computers, we can automate that stupidity. Why summarise an article when one can simply have the computer clip an article to the first so many characters or words? This approach generally works but can result in nonsense. Take a look at this week’s Odd Language.

Computers can appear to be very intelligent, but they lack any common sense. Something that you or I would stop will be done by a computer if that is what the program states to do. If this would be a disaster, a disaster we will get.

# Odd Language #123: Language Clips

A Website that I follow recently had two examples of questionable English due to computers:

1) Seen after installation of Adobe Flash: “You may need to rest…”.

2) Quoting the first part of an article: “When you have a regular gig, you may occasionally fantasize about quitting or even getting laid…”.

The issue: In both cases, automatic truncation of text at a fixed point resulted in wildly different meanings than were intended. It is not just enough to take the first so many characters or words. The first sentence before truncation was probably “You may need to restore [something].”, and the second sentence before truncation originally continued with “off”.

# Puzzle #126: Looking to the Future

If you write a date in YYYY-MM-DD format, there can sometimes be a date which has no duplicate digits. When will be the next time this happens?

Submit your answer to Gene Wirchenko <genew@telus.net>. Your answer should be in the form of a proof. That means to show how your answer must be correct. The deadline is Wednesday, November 4, 2015 at noon Pacific Time. I will post the answer shortly after.

# Man and the Moon

There is currently a thread on the USENET newsgroup alt.folklore.computers about phases of the moon. It is entitled “[Poll] Computing Favorites”. (Thread drift is a specialty of afc.)

Some interesting points:

1) It used to be that many (most?) calendars had phase-of-the-moon information. Now, this is not very common.

2) People, in general, are not aware of the phase of the moon. I know that I am not.

3) One poster’s ISP has a billing option of every lunar moon. I have checked the Webpage, and the ISP claims that some of their customers use it.

4) One poster stated that she ran across people who complained about phase-of-the-moon information on their desk calendars as being “pagan”. What a horrible inversion.

Have we gotten too sophisticated for our own good?

# Odd Language #122: Order Counts!

Last week, when I was writing Odd Language #121: I Love Babies, I was about to write “baby dolls”.

The issue: “baby dolls” could mean dolls of babies, but the term is more likely to be taken as referring to the lingerie. Realising this, I wrote “doll babies” instead. Order counts!